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The One Thing You Need to Know: ... About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success Hardcover – March 7, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


"The One Thing You Need to Know is actually a modest title. It contains many things you need to know. Marcus Buckingham is flat out the most original, provocative writer there is on the subjects of leadership and management. He comes to his theories the old-fashioned way: by truly getting to know the people and the workplaces he writes about. He also happens to be a wonderful writer and a joy to read."
-- Tony Schwartz, coauthor of The Power of Full Engagement; president, The Energy Project

"Buckingham is a superb writer and speaker who can make complex ideas crystal clear, cut through to the core insight, and reveal its crucial importance. He has been an inspiration to all of us at Lexus."
-- Denny Clements, group vice president and general manager, Lexus U.S.

"As I read The One Thing You Need to Know, for the first time I had the urge to compare someone -- Marcus Buckingham -- to Peter Drucker. Buckingham performs the most magical of acts: He speaks with surpassing common sense, yet reaches profoundly uncommon conclusions. This is a wise -- and radical -- book; a true gem worth savoring."
-- Tom Peters

"Given the tremendous complexities of today's business environment and consumer expectations, Marcus Buckingham is able to deliver a clear path of understanding to the simple truths at the heart of managing and leading. The 'one thing' I find invaluable about this book is its unique, challenging examples about how to stay laser focused on operational excellence."
-- Robert L. Nardelli, chairman, president, and CEO, The Home Depot, Inc.

"Marcus Buckingham has a keen sense of what it takes to excel, and he backs his insights with an impressive body of in-depth interviews and research. This is an important book for anybody who aspires to effective leadership, managing, or any kind of enduring individual achievement."
-- Richard M. Kovacevich, chairman, president, and CEO, Wells Fargo and Company

About the Author

Marcus Buckingham spent seventeen years at the Gallup Organization, where he conducted research into the world's best leaders, managers, and workplaces. The Gallup research later became the basis for the bestselling books First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Best Managers Do Differently (Simon & Schuster) and Now, Discover Your Strengths (Free Press), both coauthored by Buckingham. Buckingham has been the  subject of in-depth profiles in The New York Times, Fortune, BusinessWeek and Fast Company. He now has his own company, providing strengths-based consulting, training, and e-learning. In 2007 Buckingham founded TMBC to create strengths-based management training solutions for organizations worldwide, and he spreads the strengths message in keynote addresses to over 250,000 people around the globe each year. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Jane and children Jackson and Lilia. For more information visit:

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (March 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743261658
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743261654
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In a world where efficiency and competency rule the workplace, where do personal strengths fit in?

It's a complex question, one that intrigued Cambridge-educated Marcus Buckingham so greatly, he set out to answer it by challenging years of social theory and utilizing his nearly two decades of research experience as a Sr. Researcher at The Gallup Organization to break through the preconceptions about achievement and get to the core of what drives success.

The result of his persistence, and arguably the definitive answer to the strengths question, can be found in Buckingham's trio of best-selling books, First, Break All the Rules (coauthored with Curt Coffman, Simon & Schuster, 1999); Now, Discover Your Strengths (coauthored with Donald O. Clifton, The Free Press, 2001); and The One Thing You Need to Know (The Free Press, 2005), in which the author gives important insights to maximizing strengths, understanding the crucial differences between leadership and management, and fulfilling the quest for long-lasting personal success.

What would happen if men and women spent more than 75% of each day on the job using their strongest skills and engaged in their favorite tasks, basically doing exactly what they wanted to do?

According to Marcus Buckingham (who spent years interviewing thousands of employees at every career stage and who is widely considered one of the world's leading authorities on employee productivity and the practices of leading and managing), companies that focus on cultivating employees' strengths rather than simply improving their weaknesses stand to dramatically increase efficiency while allowing for maximum personal growth and success.

If such a theory sounds revolutionary, that's because it is. Marcus Buckingham calls it the "strengths revolution."

As he addresses more than 250,000 audiences around the globe each year, Buckingham touts this strengths revolution as the key to finding the most effective route to personal success -- and the missing link to the efficiency, competency, and success for which many companies constantly strive.

To kick-start the strengths revolution, Buckingham and Gallup developed the StrengthsFinder exam, which identifies signature themes that help employees quantify their personal strengths in the workplace and at home. Since the StrengthsFinder debuted in 2001, more than 1 million people have discovered their strengths with this useful and important tool.

In his role as author, independent consultant and speaker, Marcus Buckingham has been the subject of in-depth profiles in The New York Times, Fortune, Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, USA Today and is routinely lauded by such corporations as Toyota, Coca-Cola, Master Foods, Wells Fargo, and Disney as an invaluable resource in informing, challenging, mentoring and inspiring people to find their strengths and obtain and sustain long-lasting personal success.

Marcus Buckingham holds a master's degree in social and political science from Cambridge University and is a member of the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on Leadership and Management. He lives with his wife and two children in Los Angeles, CA.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

135 of 138 people found the following review helpful By Stosh D. Walsh on March 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Buckingham's book is very good overall; the practical anecdotes he provides of people actually DOING the "one thing" are compelling, and his style is entertaining, and yet no-nonsense.

In giving us "the one thing," Buckingham emphasizes the need for what he calls the "controlling insight" to provide a means not only for getting on to the field of play, but "how to win and keep winning the game."

Armed with this description, he unveils what, based on his considerable experience and research, he considers the controlling insight about great managing, great leading, and sustained individual success.

Here are the "one things" for each:

Managing: "Discover what is unique about each person and capitalize on it."

Leading: "Discover what is universal and capitalize on it."

Sustained individual success: "Discover what you don't like doing and stop doing it."

Along the way, Buckingham provides some excellent points of focus, including a very important differentiation between managing and leading that too many of his contemporaries have overlooked: "When you want to manage, begin with the person. When you want to lead, begin with the picture of where you are headed."

Predictably though, much of the argument for each of the three controlling insights is predicated upon strengths theory, which Buckingham and Clifton popularized with "Now, Discover Your Strengths." In the management chapter, the anecdotes more or less focus on individuals who are able to identify the strengths of their people, and put them to the best possible use.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By M. Strong on April 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Marcus Buckingham is quickly setting himself apart from the current pack of management and leadership gurus out there. He isn't yet in the same league as Peter Drucker or Tom Peters, but he's young and he's headed in their direction.

His latest effort, "The One Thing" joins two instant classics he's already written, "First, Break all the Rules" and "Now, Discover Your Strengths." This book starts with a premise that sounds obvious once you hear it, but that I've never seen used before. Buckingham approaches the complex topics of management, leadership and sustained individual success and asks, "If you wanted to excel in any of these areas, but could focus in on just one single idea, what would be the most important and effective things you could focus on?"

Buckingham then goes on to give you "The One Thing" in each of those areas. His points aren't arrived at frivolously. Buckingham spent years and years working with Gallup, studying and interviewing thousands upon thousands of managers, leaders, and individual contributors, some good and some bad; he knows what separates the wheat from the chaff.

The book is so filled with great insights and "Why didn't I think of that" moments that my copy is all dog-eared and marked up and some of the things I've learned are going into practice as I type this.

Very highly recommended.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By P. Lozar on May 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I thought that *First, Break All the Rules* was brilliant, and this book builds well on the line of thought that Buckingham and his collaborator started there. Plus it's succinct, well-written, and generally a pleasure to read -- which you can't say about a lot of business books!

Some points that particularly struck me were these.

1. The distinction between "management" and "leadership" skills, which are far too often confused: if someone shows leadership potential, their managers assume that the best place for them to exercise it is in a supervisory position. But a visionary leader isn't necessarily a "people person"; so they become frustrated, their direct reports aren't getting the management they need to best express their strengths, and far too much time and energy is wasted in trying to re-form the leader into someone he/she isn't instead of capitalizing on what he/she IS.

2. Why it's hard to learn skills/behaviors that don't build on your strengths (I think he gives just enough neurological information to be convincing and not overwhelming). Of course everyone has to learn *some* things that don't come naturally to them; but if someone with leadership qualities has mastered basic social and interpersonal skills, why try to make them into a mother hen when they could be making a greater contribution as a soaring eagle?

3. Many people have trouble with the One Thing he recommends for everyone: Work, they say, is not supposed to be Fun, and you can't blithely blow off the parts you don't like. However:

(a) Using your strengths to their fullest extent is not always "fun." Challenging, inspiring, and offering the greatest potential for success, yes; but often frustrating, and a whole lot of hard work too.
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49 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Jaewoo Kim VINE VOICE on June 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One thing you need to know about this book is that it is extremely wordy and contains little substance to justify a 280 page book. Mostly, the author writes what are seemingly useless paragraphs to meander from the focal point of the book: just what is the that one "thing" you should know? For example, the author compares three movies, and concludes that one of the movie was annoying because it didn't answer the question of "what is the meaning of life". I didn't find his wanna-be movie critic analysis useful, intriguing, or entertaining.

Let me save you some money by saying that one thing you should know is to understand your and others' strengths and capitalize on that strength by making it even stronger and utilizing it as much as possible. Everyone should focus on the strengths, not weaknesses.
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